In its third year being run by production company AEG, Bumbershoot hits all the right buttons with young fans.
About halfway through the first evening of Bumbershoot, superstar Detroit rapper Big Sean yelled from the main stage, “Seattle knows how to party!” The JumboTron revealed a young crowd donned in cutoff shorts, choker necklaces and tight crop tops, amid a cloud of marijuana smoke. The moment was indicative of what Bumbershoot has become: a red-hot pop-music festival now stoked by a new generation of tastemakers — millennials.
“I love getting introduced to new bands,” said Gisel Espinosa, 24, “and I love to come and see other people’s fashion.”
As the festival has gotten younger, it feels safer and more organized than in years past. It’s Bumbershoot’s third year under production company AEG, and it appears that many of the kinks that perturbed festivalgoers last year — like the long, snaking lines — have been ironed out. Lines moved the 74,000 in attendance quickly and without a hitch and security focused on crowd safety in the heat. Security patrolled dense parts of the audience and passed out water bottles to parched listeners.
Most notably, official branded posters that read “Thank you for being you. We love and welcome all genders, all races, all sexual orientations, all faiths, all hugs & high-fives,” were plastered around the KeyArena. This sort of open-mindedness and acceptance has become a totem of the progressive, youth-driven EDM community, and overall a priority in the eyes of millennials.
To that effect, many of Friday and Saturday’s acts were upbeat electronica and rap that reflected that ethos. Rapper Watsky, for instance, enlivened the crowd with the political outspokenness he’s known for during his performance at Fisher Green Stage. “How is it we managed to elect the worst person on the planet?” he said. The crowd responded with shouts and fist pumps.
The twisted South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord closed out Friday night at the Key with turnt audiences grinding against the arena stair rails. Australian DJ Flume more than delivered with his remixes of Lorde’s “Tennis Courts” and Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” as well as a psychedelic light show, complete with fireworks. On Saturday, listeners bounced with the bass-driven beats of Kevin Abstract and his bombastic, energetic raps.
The Mural Amphitheatre ended up Friday as the venue for legacy Northwest artists. Most notable was Filthy Friends, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck’s new band, formed with Northwest rock veterans Sleater-Kinnney’s Corin Tucker, Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch. R.E.M. twice headlined Bumbershoot’s Main Stage (1999, 2003), but pop music, and Bumbershoot, have changed much since then. Buck was still playing his Rickenbacker. Such an instrument most certainly did not appear during Flo Rida’s set.
To Bumbershoot’s credit, though, there did seem to be a deliberate attempt to preserve spaces for local art and promote diversity. On Friday and Saturday, the KEXP Stage featured local groups like ambient rock band Spider Ferns, the surf-grunge of Acapulco Lips and the local pared-down Americana group, The Maldives, while parents and their kids danced in front of the stage. At the StubHub Comedy Stage on both days, local comics Brent Flyberg and Bo Johnson opened for national acts Todd Barry and Judah Friedlander of 30 Rock.
For the first time, Sub Pop had a pop-up store in the Seattle Center Armory where fans could buy Sub Pop merchandise and music.
Seattle Center was abuzz Saturday night with one massive act after another. First, the tenured power pop band, Weezer, played hits like “Beverly Hills” and “Buddy Holly,” even throwing in a cover of Outkasts’ “Hey Ya!.” Lorde followed at Memorial Stadium, sauntering on-stage in a cool black crop top and long billowing pants. The crowd screamed in recognition of her opening song — “Tennis Courts” and her later performance of “Royals.” But it was The Roots that really brought the house down Saturday night on Fisher Green. The band, known currently as the house band on The Tonight Show, kept their energy up all night, their sousaphone player and horn section jumping along to the funky vocals. The band even snuck in an incredible cover of “Jungle Boogie” and of Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” as the crowd danced and tossed around blue and green balloons.
On Sunday, Solange, Beyonce’s soulful younger sister, performs at 8 p.m., and Seattle’s own ODESZA closes out the weekend with several special guests at 9:20 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.